FAST FORWARDING LOVE!
Connie Martin leaned against the door frame as she studied Ed Harrington in the far corner of the room. He was by far the best looking man her age in the room. And he was single. His brown wavy hair didn't quite stay put, but his blue eyes searched her out in a crowded room. He was the catch of Evansville. He must have sensed her staring, for he turned at that instant and caught her. Connie felt her cheeks warm. She moved from the doorway, slinking into the crowd of neighbors at the Elderman's annual Christmas party.
She wondered why he never asked her out. She’d been widowed three years. Her sons were nearly grown; the mortgage nearly paid off and she had a dog that adored her. So why wouldn’t Ed give her the time of day?
Sure, he'd glance her way occasionally, smile, even chat with her, but not once in all the times they'd talked had he asked her out. Was there something wrong with her—or with him?
He’d been widowed five years now. Shouldn’t he have recovered from Helen’s death? Ah yes, Helen, the perfect wife, mother and PTA chairwoman had died of cancer and broken his heart. Maybe he just couldn't pick up his life and go on. Or, maybe, he just plain wasn’t interested.
Connie took a martini from the passing tray and walked to the cheese buffet. Joan Elderman spotted her, waved, and edged her way towards her.
"Nice party, Joan," Connie quipped, hoping her bored smile didn’t give her away.
"He hasn't noticed that lovely dress, I take it?" Joan rolled her eyes. "Honestly that man."
"This old thing?" Connie protested, smoothing a hand down her slightly short black sheath dress, and patting her perfectly coiled naturally blonde hairdo. This old thing had set her back $100, just yesterday! And for what? Ed could care less!
"I haven't the faintest idea what's wrong with that man. I mean, he seems interested in you. He never fails to ask about you when he's over. He always seems to notice you when you walk into a room." Joan hesitated as a friend spoke to her.
Connie sighed. Yes, he did, but it hadn't gotten Connie a bit closer to dating the handsome middle-aged track coach.
Joan glanced at Connie seriously. "Maybe he’s gay.” Connie glared at her. “Or maybe he likes younger women. Perhaps he hasn't accepted Helen's death."
Connie had heard every excuse in the book, but didn't believe them. Ed simply wasn't interested in her! She had to face it, she was thirty five, lived in a town full of friends and neighbors and her chances of finding Mr. Right at this stage of the game were slim. If Ed wasn't interested she’d look elsewhere. She didn't need him. True, she’d lost her husband, but she'd survived. Well—barely. The kids’ constant nagging was the only thing that got her out of bed and back into life again. She could survive not having Ed too. But it was a shame. They had so much in common: both with nearly grown sons, both with nearly paid mortgages—even had dogs in common.
Two weeks later she was at her son's basketball game when Ed ambled over to her, smiled and sat down on the bench.
Neither spoke for a long time, then suddenly Ed leaned toward her. "Your son's pretty good."
"Yes, he is," Connie rolled her eyes at the meaningless conversation.
The crowd’s cheering was deafening. Ed scooted closer to her.
"Jordan's too short for this game. He's better at track," He was a hair’s breadth away from her. She could smell his musky aftershave.
"I never thought of him as being short," Connie admitted, ashamed she hadn't paid much attention to Jordan before. She’d only had eyes for his father.
Ed smiled and nodded. "He's very good at track though."
"I'm sure," He was nearly on top of her now, his breath raising goose bumps on her arms. If he got any closer he'd be in her lap.
"Do you make all the games?" He asked.
"Not all of them, sometimes I have to work, but I come to as many as I can."
"At least you make the effort, you'd be surprised at how many parents don't."
"Yes. " He favored her with a sexy smile that had Connie melting.
Connie stared at Ed for a long moment. "You barely said hello at the Elderman's party."
"I'm sorry. I guess I was sidetracked."
The shouts and cheers announced the ending of the game, but Connie didn't want to leave now that Ed was finally being friendly.
She stood up and turned to leave when Ed turned her around to face him. He looked into her eyes and smiled. He was actually flirting right there in the gym in front of everyone.Her heart fluttered.
"Why don't we--go have some coffee sometime?"
"Or cokes, or whatever you want."
"Well thank you Ed, I'd like that--sometime." she snapped and moved away.
Why had she done that? She'd been trying to get Ed to invite her out for over a year, now that he had she blew it. Had she gone mad? Deep down she knew she was being childish, but she was punishing herself for the times she'd made a fool of herself, trying to attract his attention. It didn’t feel very comfortable. Short of going back and begging his forgiveness, she was stuck with her revenge against herself. At this rate Ed would never have another thing to do with her. She’d be forever an old maid widow in a town that didn't let her forget it.
She looked up as her son Denny ran to her. "Mom, Jimmy wants me to come over and listen to his new stereo, can I go?"
Feeling put out about her own abruptness, she huffed and snorted at her son. "I guess so. How long are you going to be gone?"
"About an hour or so."
"Fine, but get home before dark, okay?"
"Sure, see ya."
Connie nodded. Her older son was visiting a friend out of town this weekend, her youngest would be with his friends,. She was alone. Probably the way she was going to be all her life now.
Tears threatened to fall as Connie made her way to her car. It had turned cold and began to snow. She pulled her long wool coat about her, pushed her hair away from her face and unlocked her car. She felt a hand on her arm. She glanced up and into eyes the color or an azure sky, sending shivers of delight up her spine. .
"Please--I sure would like that cup of coffee." Ed said.
"Why the sudden interest Ed."
Before she could bite her tongue she was biting his head off and not understanding a bit of it.
His wide grin spread across his face as he stared down at her, his unruly hair fluttering in the wind. "It isn't sudden. I just wasn't sure how to approach you."
"And now you are?" she snapped again, biting her lip.
Without another word, he swept her into his arms, kissed her with the fervor of a starved man. She couldn’t catch her breath.
She was suddenly reminded that the woman inside her was still very much alive. She moaned with pleasure and nearly swooned as he released her with such force that she fell against the car door.
"Yes ma'am, I sure am," he smiled. "Let's go get that cup of coffee now, hmm?"
She nodded, afraid she'd say the wrong thing.
The little coffee shop was across town but Connie didn't mind, if he didn't.
They ordered, then Ed relaxed against the booth. "Sorry if I was out of line back in the parking lot, but I think we've both wasted enough time, don't you?"
She barely uttered a word as the waitress brought their coffee. She didn’t trust herself to say anything. It might come out wrong. Dear God, she was as awkward as a school girl.
"Helen's been gone a long time, and so has your Dale. We've known each other for years, and yet, we don't know much about one another. So I'll start. I can truthfully say, I've finally adjusted to losing Helen. Admittedly, it took a while, but I'm ready to begin living again. How about you?"
She stirred her coffee, it was much too hot to drink. "It's been very lonely since Dale died."
"So what took us so long to get together, do you think?"
Connie blushed. "It's a small town, people talk."
"Ah yes, it is. But most of them are asking why we aren't together, not why we are."
"I guess you are right about that too."
"If I'm moving too fast, just say so, Connie." He took her hands in his looping their fingers together.
There went that warm fuzzy feeling again.
They talked for what seemed like hours and when he walked her to her car, he turned her toward the street light so he could see her face.
"I think we should date a while, get to know each other and then—maybe—" He kissed her again. "Let's not waste another three years, okay?" He whispered, and walked away.
Connie sat in her car a long while. She'd never realized how much her life she had wasted till now. And she was more than ready to begin anew. She looked forward to Christmas and the new year. She felt happy, yet something kept niggling at her. Would her sons approve? Maybe it was too soon. Maybe—was she getting cold feet? Backing out of her own fantasy?
She waited for Ed’s call the next day, but it didn’t come. Nor the next. Two weeks went by. She convinced herself it had been a big mistake to read anything into a few kisses. And then he called.
"I'd like to take you to dinner," he said, his voice husky.
" When?" Her mind wasn't working well with him talking so softly.
"Tonight, say in an hour?"
"Tonight? Impossible." Did he honestly think she was sitting home every night waiting for his call? He could think again. She wasn't! At least he wasn't going to know she was.
"Oh, got plans?" he asked.
"'Fraid so, Ed. You'll have to check with me some other time." She said and nearly hung up. The nerve of the man!
"Wait. I'm sorry. I'm doing this all wrong. I can tell. I've been tied up with relatives in town, but they left today and I wanted to see you as soon as possible. I know it's short notice. I apologize for that. Could we make it tomorrow night?"
His apology seemed genuine but Connie hesitated.
"I'm just not sure it's a good idea."
"I bet if I was there to kiss you, you'd change your mind. " She could hear the smile in his voice. Connie had mixed feelings; she felt warm, embarrassed, and angry for acting like a teenager on a phone date.
"I'm not a kid, Ed. I’m an adult. My hormones are in full control. I don't need to be kissed."
"Oh, I'm not so sure about that." He cleared his throat as though he too were affected by his own words. "You may not be a kid, but you sure are in your prime. I've never seen a woman look so full of life as you. Come on, Connie, give me a chance, will you? This isn't easy for me, either! I'm way out of practice."
The frustration in his voice equaled her own and she relented.
"Okay, tomorrow. Just dinner," she cautioned.
"Great, I'll pick you up at seven, there's a new seafood restaurant in town that serves the freshest catfish you've ever eaten."
"All right then. I'll see you at seven."
"Hey, wait a minute, you aren't hanging up on me, are you?"
"I've really got a lot to do, Ed," she tried to explain.
"Yeah right, like washing clothes, cleaning house, all those mundane things you do every night, I'll bet."
"Someone has to do them."
"Take five minutes and talk to me," he whispered.
Surprised by his sincerity, she gave in again. "Something wrong?"
"I've been offered another position in Houston, better salary, more work, and a great school."
Disappointed that the relationship she’d hoped for was fizzling before it began, she tried to steady her voice. "Well good for you, when are you leaving?"
"Hey wait a minute. I never said I was."
"But if it's more money I assumed you would." She said more calmly than she felt.
"Money isn't everything Connie," his voice changed.
"No, it isn't, but what's to stop you from going?"
"Oh several things. The town, my kid loves it here. And then there's you..."
"Oh now, Ed. We haven't even dated. You don't know me that well."
"I know you pretty well. I know you have great kids, well mannered, polite and respectful. I know you've made a good home for them despite losing Dale. I know you’re a decent woman and that you don't go out much. I know you’re beautiful and I can't get you off my mind.”
She hadn't expected that. In all this time, he hadn't so much as said two words to her and now he was throwing compliments, inviting her to dinner. What had turned him around?
"Did someone put you up to this?" She asked, laughing.
"Nope, I figured it out for myself. I've watched you all this time, wondering if maybe—
"Maybe?" she gulped.
"Ah come on, honey. We’re both good people, we live in a nice little town, we have nice homes, nice kids and there's no reason why we can't have a nice..."
"You said you weren't going to rush me."
"I'm trying not to. But when I finally kissed you, it was as good as I thought it would be. I've noticed you all along. But for one thing, I didn't know if you were truly over your husband dying. I didn't know if you’d be open to a relationship. I've wanted to talk to you many times, but you never hung around, you never gave the slightest indication you were interested in me other than as your kid's coach."
"What was I suppose to do?"
"I don't know. I only know that there's a chance we might make this thing between us last. A good chance."
"There's nothing between us," she gasped.
"Your kisses say otherwise."
He was right, she'd been as eager and responsive as he had.
"Ed, I'd be glad to have dinner with you, but please...let's not rush into anything."
He hesitated. "God, it'll be hard not to, as much as I want to."
He was making love to her over the phone, and she didn't have a clue how to respond. She felt everything he said equally as strong, but her logical mind kept interfering.
"Okay, I'll be a complete and total gentleman."
"Good. That’s sensible." .
"Yeah, sensible, that's what we are."
"I'll see you tomorrow night."
"Good night Ed."
She hung up and turned to see her son watching her.
"Hey Mom, what's up, you're blushing to your toes," he said on his way to the kitchen. Connie followed behind him.
"Nothing, nothing at all."
"Who was on the phone? he asked as he poured himself a glass of milk.
"Oh man, not another practice I hope."
"No, he was talking to me."
"He—asked me out to dinner."
Her son almost dropped the peanut butter. ?He did? Are you going?"
"I guess so. Would it bother you at all?"
"No, why should it? The coach is great, Mom."
Relieved that her son approved, she breathed again. She was in knots. Feeling almost as gangly as her teenage son just before his prom. A million thoughts ran through her mind. What could she wear? How could she hold him off if he wanted to kiss her again? She wanted it too, but she didn’t want to lose control. It did feel right, but wasn’t it too soon?
She'd dated Dale all of six months and then they married. She'd gotten pregnant right away and their life had been filled with love and goodness. She couldn't possibly hope for another relationship that good. Could she?
The next day came too quickly for Connie. It was drizzling and her hair frizzed up. Her car wouldn't start when she got through working. Fortunately her boss had jumper cables and got her started. She found a small stain on the dress she wanted to wear and spent another half hour tying to decide just what to wear.
Chad and Denny came home from basketball practice and flashed secret little smiles as she fussed with herself. They found this dating thing highly amusing. Well, it wasn't to her. She was beside herself wondering if it was worth the trouble.
"I'd wear the red one, Mom," Chad suggested. He was the serious one.
"You would?" She looked up at him in awe. How she’d raised such wonderfully understanding children she didn't know.
"Definitely the red, Mom," came Denny's voice through the hall.
"Red it is, then." She smiled at them and closed the door.
When Ed showed up ten minutes early she was a basket case. Chad answered the door. She waited a little then made her entrance, enjoying the open admiration on Ed’s face. She tripped over the phone cord and nearly fell. So much for grand entrances, she thought.
Ed merely smiled and stared at her as though he'd never seen her before.
He’d chosen a cozy restaurant and the catfish was excellent. She managed to say and do the right things, and so did Ed. They talked about Helen and Dale, getting the inevitable over with and out of the way. She was impressed with the way Ed had handled Helen’s illness, how he’d waited on her hand and foot at the last. What a strong, caring man he’d been.
Then it was her turn to tell him about Dale's car accident. So unexpected, how
he ‘d told her repeatedly he didn't want to live the life of an invalid and that he knew he was dying. His heart hadn't been strong enough to endure the endless operations. Ed listened respectfully. A mutual understanding grew between them.
Ed was quiet on the drive to her home. When he pulled into her drive and parked the car, he turned to look at her.
"We aren't very good at this dating thing, are we?"
"Wh-hat do you mean?"
He leaned closer. "I mean, being a gentleman all night had me in knots when what I wanted to do all night long was kiss you."
He reached for her and the world seemed to fade away. His kisses were soft and tender, yet urgent too. Her heart swelled when his lips sought to caress her bottom lip, then gently nudged her mouth open. Their tongues melded, slowly almost timidly. The heat building between them was anything but slow or timid. The car was hot and steamy and the kisses seemed to never stop.
She pulled away gently when he came up for air, opening her eyes to see naked desire in his. Desire she had aroused. She tried to smile, tried to think of something to say, but words eluded her.
He kissed her lightly—on the nose, the eyelids, down her cheek, even against her earlobe, then he whispered.
"I'm not moving to Houston."
"You're not?" she gasped with delight that she couldn't hide.
"Not now. I've got too much to lose here."
She knew he meant her and it made her blush.
"I know this is too sudden, too fast. I know I shouldn't want you, but I do. You know I do. But I'm a man of my word. I'll be a gentleman. I'll wait for you, Connie, because I know you’re worth waiting for. I can't believe my good fortune to find someone again. But I'm half in love with you I realize I'm rushing you, so we'll slow down. We'll do all the things we've wanted to do for the past three years, except make love. And someday...I promise you, we'll do that too!"
"You’re a very good man."
"I intend to prove that to you.”
She caressed his cheek with her fingers. "Goodnight."
"I'll call you tomorrow.” He kissed her quickly and left.
Connie leaned against the door when she came in and smiled. Could it be real love with a man she'd gone out with only twice? Yes, she thought of her first husband and nodded, it certainly could.